The Ordeal of Being a Haitian or a Descendant of Haitians in the Dominican Republic

Translated  by Marvin Najarro 


Two sisters countries, Afro descendants, with a mixture from the immense amount of slaves brought by the kingdoms of France, Spain, the Dutch and Anglo corsairs for five centuries. Two countries that share an island in the middle of the sea, with the same social fabric, and language as the only difference: in the Dominican Republic the Spanish is spoken while Creole in Haiti.


Both countries impoverished, invaded, plundered and dominated by mafias that have taken over the governments for decades. Oligarchies that reproduce hatred, racism and exclusion for their own benefit; which enslave and expel people.


There are not relevant cultural differences between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, nor of exploitation practices, because in both countries, as in the rest of Latin America, dictatorships have been present for decades, suppressing peoples development, and forcing them to misery and forced migrations.


Dominican Republic and Haiti share the same taste for Caribbean food and music, as well as (Cuba and Puerto Rico) the skin color and the African roots; perhaps Haitians being a little darker which creates a lot of troubles when setting foot in Dominican land as they are discriminated by government authorities, police and society in general. As happens with Africans in Europe, and Latinos in the United States.


It is hard to migrate to the Dominican Republic under those conditions; sister country, who have shared the same womb. Although the migration of Haitians to the neighboring country is not new and neither the political conflicts between both nations; the systematic discrimination established since the government of the dictator Trujillo belittles all Haitians, and labels them as lazy, thieves, dirty and ignorant. Tactic that benefited him for decades, (and up to this time benefits the oligarchies) this being not enough he resolved to nip in the bud the Haitian migration and began a clean-up throughout the borderlands in which the lives of poor, dark-skinned Dominicans were also lost . 


It was in 1937 when he ordered the Masacre del Perejil (Massacre of Perejil), ordering the killing of 30,000 Haitians among men, women, boys and girls who lived in extreme poverty and with low-paid jobs; in fact in a condition of slavery. Trujillo called that migration, the “Haitian problem”, and considered an “invasion” that imply an eminent danger for the Dominican Republic in the sociopolitical and cultural aspects.


Military and police forces went from house to house asking them to pronounce the word “perejil” (parsley) which the Haitians in their little Spanish (they speak Creole) did not know how to pronounce very well, and which caused them to expose themselves. This is how they were massacred with machetes, axes, knives, sticks and handguns; the bodies were thrown to the Dajabón River (55 kilometers long) that separates Haiti from the Dominican Republic since 1976. As a result of that bloody episode the tributary is now known as Río Masacre (Masacre River).


Although it seems that that was in the past; that it is part of history, and that something was learned from it, forgetfulness, classism and racism repeats it with different methods but with the same goal: to expel the Haitians from the Dominican Republic. Two slogans prevail: “the Haitian issue and the invasion.” Same things that are used strategically when governments wanted to divert the attention and something big being hatched behind closed doors.


Haitians are used as cannon fodder, and are exposed as the plague that has taken over the Dominican Republic. The issue of illegality, as the fascists call it, seeks to convert the poor human being into an exploitable and disposable object. The dream of Trujillo and of many presidents after him has come true in 2013.


With the legal decision 168-13 the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic ruled that children born in the country of people who are not citizens cannot be considered Dominicans because their parents were migrants in transit. This retroactive decision left people without legal status which made them practically stateless. It is segregation; it is apartheid.


For thousands of Haitian migrants who arrived in 1949 as braceros to work in the sugarcane harvest, in a program authorized by both governments, it was a stab in the back. (Just like the Bracero Program between the United States and Mexico, that the former after using the labor of these people, deported them without making effective any of the labor benefits, much less gave them residence as promised.)


The measure applies to all people born in the country from 1929 to 2013, that is, the state took away the nationality to four generations of people who for 8 decades were registered as Dominicans; it takes away fundamental rights such as: personal rights, name, nationality, family and work.


Undoubtedly it is a blow against Haitian immigration since it is estimated that between 700 thousand to 1 million undocumented Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, this makes the Dominican-born children of Haitians nationals into second-class citizens, and represents the government inhuman treatment by curbing their access to education, to dignified and formal jobs, to social security benefits and to the justice system. This comes to be a complement to the genocide committed by Trujillo, without a doubt.


The immediate reaction of international Human Rights organizations caused the government in 2014 to create the “National Regularization Plan for Foreigners in an irregular migratory situation in the Dominican Republic”, which allows people born in Haiti to receive legal residence if they can prove convincingly that they have lived in the Dominican Republic since before 2011, many could not and returned by their own will or were deported.


This law segregated the affected people into two groups: Group A, consisting of persons born in the Dominican Republic and registered in the Dominican civil registry as such, and Group B, consisting of persons born in the Dominican Republic but who were never registered in the Dominican Republic civil registry.


Within this Regularization Plan there is the possibility of a residence permit or Ordinary Temporary Residence which is something similar to a TPS that can be renewed every 18 months.


But four years have passed, and the complaints of citizens who submitted all their paperwork continue, because those who act as immigration authority in anomalous manner delay the procedures so that these persons cannot obtain their citizenship or their residence. 


Complaints of abuse of authority, and xenophobic and racist insults by the authorities towards the Haitian community and their children born in the Dominican Republic are multiplied.


Legal decision 168 and Law 169 have caused the country to be divided into those who support the stay and legalization of Dominicans of Haitian descent and those who demand their immediate deportation -as it is happening in the United States with the undocumented Latin American community. There is not much difference between Anglo racists and Dominican Afros, or is it?


This contemptuous and exclusionist treatment; the abuse and racist insults has caused Haitians and their children to exclude themselves to avoid any problem with the authorities that place them in a situation of deportation.


As in the United States, in the Dominican Republic, they operate check points, and board buses to request documents, and anyone who does not have them is immediately deported; even if possessing them, many Haitians or their children feel in danger since they know very well that racism can make an authority deport them under any excuse.


And on the other hand, sadly, hundreds of Dominicans are fleeing their country and launching themselves to sea on yolas, (small wooden boats) trying to reach the United States via Puerto Rico; and if they are not intercepted by the Coast Guard of their own country, they are by Puerto Rico’s  Coast Guard which deport them.


If extreme poverty in the Dominican Republic causes its nationals to emigrate in this way -and who now are seeking for Chile and Peru just like the Haitians- imagine the treatment the Haitians receive in that country.


Before the eyes of the world the Dominican Republic is the paradise of tropical beaches and sex tourism. Of course, the latter is not as advertised as the first, since this is managed by the same people who oversee the country’s immigration laws: the oligarchy’s big criminal mafias.


As implausible as may have been, Dominican Republic, took away the nationality of its own children, only because they were of Haitian descent.                          


Do you see how racism, homophobia and classism are evils not of a country but of humanity?


And the million dollar question: And how do we treat the undocumented migrants in our countries of origin? Do we offer them some chance for residency and citizenship or do we just throw the stone and hide the hand?


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 Ilka Oliva Corado @ilkaolivacorado

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